The Montessori Method – Mistakes are Part of the Learning Process

Children are people, and people make mistakes. The experience of childhood is filled with small errors like spilling water or dropping food. The Montessori approach cherishes children’s freedom to make – and correct – their own mistakes. This process is called “control of error,” and it is built into all Montessori work.

Here are a few differences between traditional schools and preschools and Montessori schools in terms of how mistakes are handled in the classroom:

  • Rewarding perfection is not the best approach.
  • Mistakes are viewed as part of the learning process.
  • Montessori guides often use their own mistakes as learning moments in the classroom so that children can see that even adults are not perfect.
  • The goal is to help children recognize and resolve errors on their own.

When students make errors, instead of raising their voices or scolding them, Montessori teachers use these moments as lessons. They identify the mistake and then go about resolving it with the child. For instance, a teacher might say, “It looks like you spilled water on the floor. Let’s clean it up together.”

Children who are constantly corrected in more traditional classrooms may develop a fear of speaking up or trying new things. A child who is learning to drink from a cup and tilts the cup back too far, spilling water on himself, will learn the mistake right away. There’s no need to point it out to the child; he can feel the water he spilled. Similarly, if a child mispronounces a word, the teacher will simply pronounce the word correctly. The child will hear her mistake and learn from the moment.

More in this series:

12 Ways Montessori Schools Are Different From Traditional Schools